Swapping Emotional Eating with Mindful Eating for Life

Let’s not sugar coat it, 2020 has been quite an emotional rollercoaster. Feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty traditionally change the way people eat. Food can offer temporary relief to emotional stress, but changes in the way we eat may also create more stress to our physical and emotional wellbeing.

What is emotional eating?     -     The reality is, we don’t always eat because we’re hungry. Food may be used to offer stress relief, avoid negative emotions or even to reward ourselves. Food may sometimes be used to fill our emotional needs in addition to satisfying our hunger.

When we are stressed, we tend to crave foods that are higher in sugar and fat. When eating foods is influenced by our mood, there may be an overpowering urge to eat larger portions of comfort style foods. This is known as emotional eating and it can affect people who are facing stress, loneliness, boredom and hardship. Until the factors driving emotional eating are addressed, our desire to eat will remain when we feel stressed and this may lead to feelings of being powerless around food.

How can you identify if you are emotional eating?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I eat more when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
  • Can I tell when I am genuinely hungry or are the lines between emotion and hunger blurred?
  • Do I eat to reward myself?
  • Do I calm myself with food?
  • Do I feel uncomfortably full after eating?

Identifying when you are hungry, or when you are emotionally eating, is a skill which takes practice. You may wish to keep a diary to help you become aware of times you are eating in response to emotion. Taking time to recognise whether you are craving food in response to stress is important so that you can identify your triggers.

How to mindfully eat?

  • Mindful eating allows you to identify mindless habits, identify your triggers and slow down when eating food.
  • Sit at a table with cutlery. Mindful eating starts with the right setting and environment.
  • Reduce distractions around you (turn off the tv, get off your phone or step away from the computer screen). Avoid multi-tasking while you are eating!
  • When eating a meal, eat slowly and pay attention to what you are doing.
  • Make a conscious choice about what you are eating, and when you are eating by scheduling meals and snacks.
  • Sit down and have your meal, focus on chewing, tasting and swallowing.

Mindfully eating foods can help us know when we are satisfied and this can make us feel even better. Meals with a balance of protein, vegetables, wholegrains and healthy fats like avocado, help to stabilise our blood sugar and allow for a steady release of energy.

How to seek support during a difficult time?     -     Seek out trusted support and talk through what is worrying you.

To talk with counsellors who have specialist training in emotional eating and body image, you can contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 473.

Lifeline offers 24hour support on 13 11 14.


Brooke Crabb

Naturopath | Clinical Nutritionist | Herbalist | Mindfulness Daily Essentials Health


Follow Brooke on Instagram @dailyessentialsnaturopath


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